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Help with home ESXi server

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October 5, 2012 9:22:58 AM

Hi all,

Hoping for some help with a home build that's sole purpose is for running ESXi.

I'm not a complete n00b when it comes to this, but haven't done it in about 10 years, when it was all Pentium P3 and AMD Athlon with 512mb ram if you were lucky / rich. So it's true to say that I am not up to date with all the latest technology and concepts.

Objective

I'm a software developer by profession, and I use VMWare virtual machines extensively for a variety of purposes. I have been using VMWare Fusion on my Macs for a couple of years with great success. I've been running small Windows domain setups, and a range of other W2k8R2 servers with things like SQL Server 2008 / 2012, particularly for SSAS/SSRS and a lot of SharePoint 2010.

I've got a few other machines I run - I have a LAMP server running on Ubuntu Server, a few Windows client machines, and I'd also like to setup a dedicated Handbrake and iTunes streaming server, for streaming video to an AppleTV (so possibly a virtual OSX machine.) and possibly a central storage / NAS / san of some sort.

At the moment I run these off either my Laptop (Intel Macbook Pro) or my desktop (Intel iMac) with VMWare Fusion.

However, I've started to hit performance barriers where I'm limited to how many machines I can have running at one time.

Therefore, I want to build a dedicated ESXi server that can be running 24/7 with many or all of these machines up and once. Obviously noise, heat and power consumption are a consideration but I'm quite relaxed about it. Obviously being relatively future-proof would be an advantage too.

I don't do any gaming, or anything else particularly graphics intensive. Not looking to overclock either.

Confession

I didn't do enough reading up on this before starting to collect hardware. I was a bit naive because everything works so well with VMWare Fusion with no configuration. I find the VMWare ESXi HCL a bit confusing. I determined that I needed a processor and mobo that would support VT and then started buying. I started looking at the old HP / Dell servers that you can buy on eBay for not much cash but decided against due to noise/power consumption. I then started looking at desktop server boards/components, but the price soon added up. So in the end I settled on standard desktop components based around Intel chipset.

However, I've since done what should I have done first - some proper research. And, now I've got all the bits, I'm questioning whether it's the right mix for what I want.

Current Kitlist

The kit I've bought so far is:

  • Intel Core i7-3770K S1155 3.5GHz 8MB
  • Asus P8Z77-V S1155 Intel Z77 DDR3 ATX

    Other bits

  • 2x Western Digital Black 2TB 7200RPM SATA 6Gb/s 64MB
  • 2 x Corsair CMZ16GX3M2A1600C10 Vengenace 16GB 1600MHz CL10 DDR3 Memory Two Module Kit (32gb total)
  • Corsair Carbide Series 500R Mid-Tower Gaming Chassis, White
  • Corsair 750W Enthusiast Series TX750 Modular Power Supply

    Budget was around £600, but I blew that, mainly due to going to 32gb RAM and upgrading to the Black edition of the hard drives rather than the green.

    The problem

    I think this machine would do the job (and do it well) but essentially it would seem that I've built a gaming rig, rather than something ideally suited for running VMs. It's clearly overspecced, and I've since learnt what the K insignia on the processor means (i.e, unlocked) and that it does not support VT-d and a few other features. It also seems that the motherboard (nor any ASUS) will support VT-d.

    I also made mistakes with the case - it's absolutely enormous, and I'm a bit concerned the 200mm fans in it are going to be noisy. I'm also not sure I need the 750w PSU, but anyway, for another day perhaps.

    So I'm wondering if I can change it a bit, and if I reduce the spend, so much the better..!

    Questions, then...

    1. Do I need Vt-d [IOMMU] support? Based on reading what this means, I think it can be simplified down to: "if I want a particular guest OS to have access to a piece of hardware, that ESXi does not have driver for, then VT-d enables the guest OS to see the hardware natively and so you can then install the native drivers in the guest OS."

    At the moment, I can't see this being a requirement, as everything is pretty standard. However, I don't really want to rule it out as something I may want to do in the future.

    2. Should I scale this back to get hardware more suited to virtualisation? Have been looking around, and either the Core I7-3770 (non K edition) does support VT-d, or the Xeon E3-12** series also support it (ironically this were the chips I first started looking at.) (useful info...)

    If so, which mobo should I go for? ASRock seems to be a popular choice, and I think this would do the job... and is a lot cheaper than the ASUS!

    I guess the only thing that I would prefer is to get something that will work the RAM I've already bought.

    That's probably enough for now - but obviously any other hints, tips or stuff I've missed/advice is greatly appreciated.

    Thanks!
    Matt

  • More about : home esxi server

    October 5, 2012 11:50:33 AM

    I can see you already did a lot of research. I just found this for the mobo choice: http://communities.vmware.com/message/2111967 There are some hints (network controller) when and why you may need Vt-d. It's of cause a budget thing, but for what you want to do, i would recommend something like a supermicro board with a XEON and ECC RAM. What's missing for sure is a SSD for the os!
    October 5, 2012 12:28:03 PM

    Thanks - had seen that link already which is where I gathered most of my later information! Lots of useful stuff. The i7-3770 with the asrock seems to be the way to go with esxi5.0. Will keep reading...
    Related resources
    October 5, 2012 12:30:10 PM

    you would have been better off with a i7 if you were doing vms. the i5 is more powerful than what you had but not the best given hypertheading really helps in your situation
    October 5, 2012 12:54:45 PM

    Find someone with the Core I7-3770 and trade them for your Core I7-3770K. Your system may be a little overspecced, but better than not buying powerful enough hardware. The larger fans tend to be quieter as they can run at slower RPMs to give the same airflow as a smaller fan. With that CPU and 32GB of RAM you should be able to run a fair number of VMs. I have a dual core laptop with 6 GB and can run 6-7 VMs (mostly Linux) pretty well.
    October 5, 2012 1:07:14 PM

    he has a i5 not a i7
    October 5, 2012 1:09:48 PM

    TheBigTroll said:
    he has a i5 not a i7


    It's the I7-3770K.
    October 5, 2012 1:16:13 PM

    oh ok. the i7 is still ok even if he is not to overclock
    October 6, 2012 11:38:43 AM

    Have ordered the ASRock board and the i7-3770. Everything else should work OK. May add an SSD at some point.
    October 31, 2012 6:48:38 PM

    A very cool thread to look at is http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1573272

    Gea as a guide for creating an awesome all in one server, he recomends server grade hardware but the items you picked out should work. I have been running mine for over a year now and it is totaly awesome.

    I dont recommend my hardware choice, I also did not get vt-d.
    i think I used this guide to pass my drives to the OpenIndiana VM
    http://blog.davidwarburton.net/2010/10/25/rdm-mapping-o...

    GIGABYTE GA-H61M-DS2 LGA
    Intel Pentium G620 Sandy Bridge 2.6GHz
    G.SKILL Ares Series 16GB (2 x 8GB)
    3xWestern Digital WD Green WD30EZRX 3TB
    1 old laptop drive
    run esxi off usb stick
    run pfsense and OpenIndiana on old laptop drive.
    run media server and what ever else I want on my zfs raidz 6tb (kind of like raid 5, 2 data drives and 1 parity drive)

    Being I did not get a extra sata card I found a way to pass the hard drives directly to the virtual machine, its a bit of a hack but works great.

    My cpu Is a little under powered but for what I do i think it works pretty good. I am going to install a pbx server next week and ditch my phone company. it should be fun.
    !